Vilsack more worried about planting than harvest for farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack holds a news briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 5. Vilsack says his bigger concern from the supply chain woes affecting the U.S. rests with planting more than harvesting. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday said he’s more worried that supply chain delays will affect next year’s planting season than this year’s harvest.

“I’m not concerned necessarily that supply chain issues will affect this year’s harvest. I think I’m more concerned about next year’s ability to plant,” he said in an interview with McClatchy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $500 million last month to provide relief for agriculture market disruptions because of supply chain issues caused by congestion at U.S. ports.

Farmers have been worried about delivery delays for essential parts amid a broader supply chain slowdown.

“We’re in harvest and I’ve had some problems getting parts and filters. Just everyday stuff. We had to wait for an air filter for a day because they didn’t have anything in stock,” Glenn Brunkow, a farmer in Pottawatomie County, Kan., told McClatchy earlier this month.

“We’re at the time of year where that’s critical,” said Brunkow, who grows corn and soybeans.

Vilsack pointed to ways the Biden administration was addressing the larger issue of delays in shipping.

“We know that we’re going to benefit from ports going to 24-7 operations. We know we’re going to benefit from the Department of Transportation trying to figure out ways to encourage the issuance of CDLs — commercial driver’s licenses — so we get more truck drivers,” Vilsack said.

He also said the administration was looking at additional options to use federal resources to bring products out of ports and inland more quickly. “We’re looking for creative ways to use those resources, so we’re obviously concerned about it and we’re doing everything we can to address it,” Vilsack said.

The American Farm Bureau has raised concerns that supply chain issues will increase business costs for farmers.

“If you have any sort of supply chain disruption, you’re going to see increased prices for inputs. So, farmers have already started to see massive increases in prices for their inputs,” American Farm Bureau Federation associate economist Danny Munch said in a podcast posted to the farm bureau’s website Thursday.

“All of these ports are vital to farmers who use foreign outlets as a place to market their goods. So, any change in the ability to access containers impacts farmers’ bottom lines,” he said.

Tribune Wire